Population And Housing Census Of Bhutan Gave Further Insights Into The Transformation Of The Kingdom


The Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) in 2017 provides a statistical breakdown in the following article.

Bhutan - A magical kingdom nestled in the Himalayas. (Source: Youtube/Travfi Films)


By Tshering Palden | Kuensel

For the past 12 years, Bhutan’s population has increased by 8,380 people a year on average. As of 30 May last year, the population rose by 100,571 persons and hit the figure of 735,553.

According to the reports of Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017, which Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay released on 25 June, out of Bhutan’s total population of 735,553, 681,720 are ethnic Bhutanese.

The Crude Birth Rate (CBR) is 15.5 per 1,000 population, which is a decrease from 19.7 in 2005. The total fertility rate (TFR) is 1.7, which implies that a woman on an average bears 1.7 children during her reproductive life, down from 2.5 in 2005.

Decline in birth rate in Bhutan is a worrying trend

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that this is worrying trend as the population replacement rate for the country is 2.1 Statistics also showed that women, mostly in urban areas, chose to delay having children.

Source: dharmaeye

The other likely reason for the decline in birth rate is the increase in literacy rate to 71.4 percent, up from 59.5 percent in 2005. The highest literacy rate is observed in Thimphu at 83.9 percent, followed by Trongsa (77.2 percent) and Chukha (75.1 percent), while Gasa had the lowest (59.8 percent).

The sex ratio of the population is 110, which means that there are 110 males for every 100 females. The median age is 26.9 years, indicating that half of Bhutan’s population is younger than 26.9 years.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that at this rate, Bhutanese population growth could go negative in the next seven years. “This is unacceptable and a cause for concern because we already have such a small population,” he said.

An official from the National Statistical Bureau (NSB) Tashi Dorji, who presented on the findings said that the decline in birth rate is also an indication that the society is ageing.

However, the total dependency ratio is 47, which is a decrease from 60.6 in 2005. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the Bhutanese population is ageing not just amongst the elderly but throughout the entire population as well.

Out of the total population, 62.2 percent lived in rural areas and compared to 2005, the population density increased from 17 to 19 persons /km sq.

Among the various dzongkhags, Thimphu has the largest population with 138,736 people constituting 19.1 percent of the total population, while the least populated province is Gasa dzongkhag with 3,952 persons or less than one percent.

Birth attendance by health professionals in the 12 months before the census day increased from 50.9 percent in 2005 to 97.2 percent (10,927 births) in 2017.

Life expectancy in Bhutan has increased over the years

Life expectancy at birth is 70.2 years, which is an increase from 66.3 years in 2005. The life expectancy of women is 71.7 years as compared to men at 68.8 years.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the good news is that life expectancy has crossed 70 years.

Source: welcome2bhutan 

“What is driving this, in part is because our elderly people are living longer and infant and child, under five mortality rates have come tumbling,” he said.

The crude death rate for Bhutan is 6.7 deaths per 1,000 populations, which is a slight decrease from 7.1 in 2005. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) is 89 per 100,000 live births.

All childhood mortality indicators had improved in the last 12 years (2005-2017), where the Infant Mortality Rate decreased from 40.1 to 15.1. The Child Mortality Rate decreased from 21.5 to 19 and Under-5MR decreased from 61.6 to 34.1.

The census revealed that the unemployment rate in 2017 is 2.4 percent. Of that, the urban unemployment rate was 4.6 percent as compared to 1.3 percent in rural areas.

The youth unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, with a much higher rate in urban areas at 16.7 percent as compared to 6.7 percent in rural areas.

Statistics of rural-urban migration in Bhutan

Among the population born in Bhutan, 48.7 percent had moved from their gewog or town of births, while 39.8 percent had moved away from their dzongkhag of births. About 22 percent of the population born in Bhutan had migrated from rural to urban areas.

Source: DrukAsia 

Thimphu dzongkhag, Thimphu thromde and Phuentsholing thromde are the main ‘gaining’ dzongkhags/thromdes, while Zhemgang, Lhuentse and Trashigang dzongkhags are the main ‘losing’ dzongkhags.

There are 163,001 regular households in the country, which is an increase of 29.2 percent from 2005 (126,115) with an average household size reduced to 3.9 persons from 4.6 in 2005.

About 96.6 percent of the households in the country use electricity for lighting, an increase of 39.5 percent from 2005 (57.1 percent). About 98.6 percent of the total households have access to improved sources of drinking water, which is an increase of 14.1 percent from 2005 (84.5 percent). About 18 percent of the households have reported that the source of drinking water is not reliable. The proportion of households with improved sanitation is 74.8 percent in 2017.

Improvement in Bhutan’s infra-structure since 2005

The network of roads have expanded and about 92 percent of the households in the country are within 30 minutes of walking distance from the nearest motor road, which is an increase from 63 percent in 2005.

“During the 12 months preceding the census reference day, 6.2 percent of the households experienced food insufficiency or not having  enough food to feed all household members,” one of the presenters from NSB, Pema Namgay said.

Among the regular Bhutanese households (158,513), 60.4 percent reported that they own land. About 73 percent of households in rural areas own land compared to 38.7 percent  of households in the urban areas.

Merits of the Reports on the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan

“The reports give us a chance to understand the opportunities and risks and where we need to work on,” Lyonchhen said. He also applauded the NSB and stakeholders for the first international standard census conducted by locals.

Lyonchhen attributed the successes to Their Majesties the Kings for achieving development that has propelled Bhutan out of the category of the least developed countries.

“From here where we go is in our hands and experts have much to do to determine where we need to go,” he said.

Education secretary Karma Yeshey, an organising committee member, said that the objective of the 2017 PHCB is to provide data for the purposes of policy formulation, socio-economic planning, service delivery, and indicators for measuring progress towards the achievement of key national targets.

The 2017 PHCB, which is the second in series, conducted on May 30 and June 1 last year used the de-facto method of enumeration and people were counted where they were found on the census reference date regardless of their nationality or usual place of residence.

The 2017 PHCB national report and the reports for the 20 dzongkhag can be accessed through the website: www.nsb.gov.bt.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.


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